Now, this all seems pretty so-what-ish, but Rebecca Kukla, guest blogging for Brian Leiter, says it's a problem. Social norm violation has some connection to sexual norm violation, she says. But even apart from that, she seems to think there's a problem:
The problem with all of this (or one of the many problems) is, again, that it comes at the cost of the most vulnerable members of the profession - those likely to be the targets of the boundary-violations and judgmental expectations rather than their instigators. Likewise it leaves us with no recourse when we feel violated. If we complain, we are just not understanding how to be a cool philosopher, or we are not intellectual enough to get the joke. It also generally puts women, people of color, and other disciplinary minorities in a different kind of impossible position: we can’t get away with the hobo look without repercussions, but we also get dismissed if we look like we care about social conventions...I'm puzzled how it is that anyone is the "target" of non-sexual "boundary-violations" -- the ones that come to my mind, anyway -- and how it is that anyone is "violated." But yes, I agree that "we can't get away with the hobo look" or whatever it might be -- candy-throwing, bare feet. Eccentricity seems to be associated with brilliance in men, but not in women. So women have fewer tools in their "how to impress" toolbox.
Yeah, it's true and it's irritating, but I can't imagine expecting men to cut back on the eccentricity, just because it's not as much of an option for women. And as for there being any connection to sexual norm violation, I'm just not seeing it. All the barefoot candy-throwing faculty members I know are not sexual norm violators in the slightest. It's an intriguing possibility, but to believe there's any correlation between one type of norm violation and another, I'd need to see some evidence.